Petfood Forum: A First timer’s perspective

Petfood forum
Petfood forum

Petfood Forum: A First timer’s perspective

How knowing your audience makes the most of the problem/solution trade show experience

I just returned from my first trip to Petfood Forum in Kansas City and I thought it was a great show for many reasons including the vast array of exhibitors, thoughtful panel sessions, presentations, and solid networking opportunities.  And everything supported the main goal: shared learning of the pet food industry, its trends and the marketplace as a whole.

I’ve been to more trade shows than I care to count, some good… some not so good.  One of the key measures of success for me as an attendee is how well the exhibitors put themselves in my shoes and focus on problem/solution.  I bring this up because often at trade shows we find ourselves bombarded by booths that are more focused on gadgets and widgets than providing the visitor with the real value proposition for their product or service.

At this show, most exhibitors, panelists and presenters did an excellent job of bringing thoughtful and creative solutions to current issues, such as clean label pet foods.  Others brought interesting ideas to future growth with new technology in food processing and packaging. And useful marketing discussion such as sessions on premiumization to purchases at brick and mortar versus online.

Whether the primary focus was on grain for ingredients, livestock feed or pet food… there was an abundance of ideas, solutions and learning.  And the conversations we had around the needs, wants and attitudes of the various target segments enlightened and validated much of our marketing focus in these categories. Similarly, we are seeing these conversations and opinions reflected in our Pet Panel series.

And, while there were definitely fun and engaging booths, there were much fewer of the “clown car” antics that we often see at so many other shows.  The booths were informative and most offered very clearly defined problem/solution values, such as various pet food fiber sources and the pros and cons of each And that, in my opinion, is what makes a very worthwhile trade show experience.

The key takeaway for me is that as we study the trends and outlook of the pet food category, it is with absolute certainty that the quality of ingredients and efficiencies in food processing are going to play a critical role in a brand’s success.

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For information on how our agency may help you reach your marketing goals, please contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director, or download our R+K Pet Care Credentials.

R+K launches inaugural pet panel

Insights from pet parent panel
Insights from pet parent panel

R+K launches inaugural pet panel

Fear Free Training among pet parent priorities

In March 2019, Rhea + Kaiser launched its first proprietary research panel of dog and cat owners, with the goal of analyzing and validating a variety of pet care trends and hypotheses, and to better understand the market and its influencers. These findings, along with additional information on the attitudes and behaviors of pet parents regarding things such as Fear Free Training, food and supplement purchases, help us better guide pet care clients in developing strategies to market effectively.

Our first panel survey unveiled some insights into valuable tips for effective marketing of foods, products and services to pet parents. One of the most intriguing was around Fear Free Training.

Fear Free Training: Sounds Good, But Not Sure What It Is

Our panel indicated that Fear Free Training by their pet care provider (i.e. veterinarian, groomer, walker) received, on average, a 7 out of 10 on importance, but that only 18 percent actually know what it is. We perceived this to be both a curiosity and interest in Fear Free Training, but also indicative of a knowledge gap in what the training is and how it can benefit the pet care consumer. We also suspect there were several interpretations of this data: an awareness of the training is not the same as understanding it. Furthermore, we questioned how consumers could rate the importance of a product or service at 70 percent without knowing what it is.

Why it matters: Fear Free Training is a certification that provides veterinary professionals, pet professionals and pet parents with compassionate physical and emotional animal education. However, our survey indicates that there is a population that values the importance of having a practitioner with this certification without having any understanding of it. Therefore, the goal is to market Fear Free Training not just as a value point, but as a way to truly connect with pet parents. This means to demonstrate all of the compassion and emotional nurturing that Fear Free Training offers, and to ensure through the marketing process and materials that pet parents really understand what Fear Free Training is and how it’s a benefit to the pet.

The pet care market includes a myriad of practitioners and pet parents, all of whom have the same goal of providing optimal pet wellness. That also requires a solid understanding of how each of these individuals selects the various products and brands that they use to keep their pets healthy.

R+K intends to launch additional pet panel surveys on a monthly basis (or as often as needed) and to use the data to guide clients and association partners on the most effective marketing practices to connect with pet parents.

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For more information about our approach to marketing in the pet care industry, download our R+K Pet Care Credentials or contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

Pathfinding for a stronger future at Rhea + Kaiser

Pathfinding for a stronger future at Rhea + Kaiser

President/CEO Diane Martin describes the start of a restructuring process

As Pathfinders at Rhea + Kaiser, we help our clients achieve their vision – we help them get there from here.  We collaborate with them to set a course and steer their marketing and communications to their target destination. And sometimes, to chart a new course to that vision when the market dictates. We’re also Pathfinders for our own business. We have a vision, and like our clients, sometimes must pivot or restructure when the market dictates.

Restructuring has become a dirty word, no matter the intent. It can come with uncomfortable change, which can include elimination of functions, positions and sometimes entire departments in some organizations. Equally as painful as saying goodbye to the hard-working professionals we have come to trust and respect is the disruption and discomfort of change as the organization works to achieve the new vision. Because restructuring isn’t a single event on a single day. Restructuring is a process that takes many days, week and months.

If you’ve ever been through a restructuring, whether due to merger or acquisition, downturn in the economy or seismic shift in customer demands, you know the process is fraught with lots of white-boarding, number crunching and emotionally draining deliberation.  Not to mention the meetings, new process manuals and learning to work in new ways with different people.

Today at Rhea + Kaiser we announced a restructuring due to changing client needs and our desire to be a more agile and efficient agency. It is time that we adapt our agency model, so we can better align with the services required by our clients and the ever-changing landscape of marketing communications.

We said goodbye to some outstanding people who greatly contributed to who R+K is today. People we call friends. Professionals who cared about their jobs and collaborated to deliver the best work possible for our clients and agency. Perhaps at this moment it seems hollow, but I recognize and value what these individuals have done for R+K. Everyone here hopes the disruption to their lives is brief, and we will always cherish the privilege of knowing and working with them.

Difficult roads often lead to better destinations.

I am adapting someone else’s words here. But they best capture the coming days at R+K as we begin adjusting our service structure. Over the last several months we have talked a lot about being a more nimble and efficient organization. We have talked about operating like a start-up where bureaucracy is an obstacle, and ingenuity, creativity and the ability to pivot on a dime are the order of the day. We have talked about shaking off “how it’s always been done” and asking ourselves “what if?” and “why not?” And we continue to talk about being the destination where clients come for guidance and solutions, for Pathfinding, in achieving their visions and goals.

Tomorrow is the beginning of a new day at R+K. It is the first of many days of collaboration and hard work as we continue this process of restructuring. Having been through a few restructurings in my 30-plus years with R+K – with the addition of services, departure of key personnel, the addition and loss of clients, or seismic events like when the dot.com bubble burst or more recently the Great Recession – I know the coming days will be challenging, heart-breaking and exciting, sometimes all at once. I also know that the process will be rewarding, not just for me but for the entire organization.

Today’s commencement of restructuring helps us turn talk into action. Achieving our vision isn’t going to happen in a matter of days or even weeks. There will be tweaks and adjustments over the next few months. But I am confident that the Pathfinders of Rhea + Kaiser have the smarts, fortitude and imagination that will position us to deliver smart, strategic solutions for our clients. We are on the path to a better destination.

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Observations from Commodity Classic 2019

Commodity Classic 2019 Observations
Commodity Classic 2019 Observations

Observations from Commodity Classic 2019

Some insight, but more questions than answers

Trade show season is winding down and Commodity Classic (CC) is not to be left out. In contrast to the past five years, this year seemed much more low-key. Maybe it’s because we’ve come out of another tough year, and we’re heading into what seems like continued uncertainty in ag. We felt, more than saw, a vibe of slogging through another year… and less pie-in-the-sky dreaming. And though farmers were engaged in booths, we couldn’t get a sense for if they were in learn-to-buy, learn-to-plan or learn-to-dream mode.

When we go to trade shows and conferences, we see them through two different lenses: the lens of the event producer who creates an environment that is larger than life, a spectacle that is inviting for the consumer and makes him or her want to do business; and the lens of the brand manager, who is there to sell a product or service and in whichever way possible, strike up a deal.

As we navigated CC, we were reminded that we’re operating in yet another ag environment. It wasn’t lost on us the impact of recent years’ mergers and acquisitions with the shifts in the size and number of booths. We also noted a few new ag brands that were notably absent on the trade show floor, despite their presence on shirts in hotels and airports, and could only assume they took advantage of CC to meet with and entertain customers.

Not all trade shows look alike, but the challenges are the same

Comparatively, in our week prior at the Western Veterinary Conference (WVC), we saw stunning, well-orchestrated booths consuming as much overhead space as at ground level. At CC, there were bigger, more extravagant designs featuring bold headers and overhead signage, but most of the up-top disruption came from combines, tractors, sprayer booms and grain carts – familiar things that still catch farmers’ eyes. Though it’s easy to make comparisons from event to event, the differences for better and for worse are also quite recognizable.

And between conversations at WVC and at CC, we repeatedly heard marketers struggle with determining the value and measuring the ROI of exhibiting at shows. With budgets that need to work ever harder, many marketers debate yearly their participation in a trade show. They know that while a show represents only a sampling of their target audience, it is still a good opportunity to connect and gauge customer sentiment and points of interest about products and services.

The costs for exhibiting at events continues to climb no matter what sector or location. The quality of leads and in-booth collected data can vary dramatically with the challenges of self-reported data, repeat visits to a display and the tchotchke collectors. While overall traffic numbers may seem high, the net number of quality visitors is often unknown. Then after the show, there’s a need to get the leads back to the field for follow-up.

It makes us wonder: Does a marketer achieve more with private customer/prospect events?

Today we have a new generation of farmer. We’re seeing a more diverse population and a whole new world of technology that is advancing ag and solving problems for farmers that they didn’t even know they had. Perhaps it’s time to start marketing in a way that we’ve never considered before.

Data and ag tech dominated the trade show

We saw the full range, including: data and tech service companies; ag retailers; equipment manufacturers – full-line, short-line and aftermarket attachment and device manufacturers; aerial monitoring and data capture services, along with those capturing in-canopy, root-level and deep sub-surface data; plus production, marketing and risk management providers that leverage the data for farmers. No matter what direction you looked across the show, it was clear technology was top of mind.

This leads to many questions: How do farmers sort through it all? How do they determine what they need and from whom? How do they know who to trust… and how long will that provider be in business? How do they know how to make it pay… or when it will pay? Are rural broadband issues being resolved in terms of access, reliability and speed?

We left Commodity Classic energized about the scope and possibilities of where equipment and technology are headed. We also left wondering how we can help marketers and farmers answer those questions and many others about ag tech. Can we market products and services to a population that isn’t sure what to do with them and how to extract full value them just yet?

The onus is on us to ensure that we know our market, can educate them properly and can provide them with the tools to enhance their lives, increase their yields and make their farms more prosperous than ever.

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For more information about our approach to marketing in the agriculture industry, download our R+K Ag Credentials or contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

National Ag Day: stand up for U.S. agriculture

2019 National Ag Day
2019 National Ag Day

National Ag Day: stand up for U.S. agriculture

This year, March 14 marks the 46th anniversary of National Ag Day by the Agriculture Council of America. It’s an important day for those of us involved in agriculture. It’s an opportunity to share the great story of American agriculture with the rest of nation. Nowadays, too few people truly understand the role U.S. agriculture has on our daily lives.

From providing safe, abundant and affordable food and fiber products to its contributions to a strong economy, U.S. agriculture is working harder than ever to meet the needs of Americans and a growing global population. In fact, each American farmer feeds about 165 people. And with today’s emerging technologies, farmers are poised to produce even more and in a more environmentally friendly manner.

But U.S. agriculture is more than just farming. About 22 million Americans work in agriculture-related fields. Today’s agriculture industry offers more than 200 rewarding and challenging careers like communications. That’s why we strongly encourage young people to consider a career in agriculture, even if they did not grow up on a farm or in a rural area.

As a marketing communications agency with strong ties to agriculture, we at Rhea + Kaiser embrace our role as a storyteller for agriculture. And on National Ag Day, we join with producers, associations, companies, colleges and universities, government agencies and all those associated with this great industry to recognize and celebrate agriculture in our country.

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Experiencing WVC through multiple lenses

Insights from the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC).
Insights from the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC).

Experiencing WVC through multiple lenses

Insights from the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC)

When the Pathfinders, our team of marketing professionals at R+K who help clients achieve their brand visions, attend industry conferences and trade shows, such as the recent Western Veterinary Conference (WVC), we approach the show through multiple lenses. These lenses deepen our understanding of the market and the mindsets of our clients’ customers. Following are some of the lenses we used at WVC.

Journalist. Through the journalist lens, we ask questions and are curious about everything. We try to see what’s new, who’s new in the industry and what are the trending topics in the sessions and aisle-way conversations.

Customer. We use the customer lens because, at R+K, we hold to the mantra Think Customer First.

When using this lens, we try to see, hear and experience the conference as if we are the customer. In the case of WVC, we wore our veterinarian, vet tech and practice manager lenses. Admittedly, mine were a little foggy, as I had missed the last two years. But in the course of the day, my veterinary lenses cleared up. And I was eagerly learning about prescription fulfillment services from Vet Source, the role of hydrolyzed soy in a Royal Canin formulation, and the diagnosis and treatment options for chronic pain and itch in cats.

Ethnographer. The ethnographer in us comes to the conference, too. We observe how the attendees and exhibitors interact at the trade show. We listen and watch practice managers engage during sessions on improving staff communications and enhancing their website through customer empathy.

This is most often the lens that our Brand Strategist wears at shows and conferences. She pays attention to how exhibitors engage with veterinarians, noting their body language and facial reactions, as well as how they move through each booth and the duration of the visit. It gives her a sense of how veterinary customers respond to various stimuli – both messaging and human.

The ethnography lens is another dimension of our Think Customer First mantra, to ensure that we have a broad and deep understanding of the customers of our clients. and prospective clients.

Prospector. Speaking of prospective clients, the R+K business development lens is ever-present. Shows and conferences are an ideal opportunity to reconnect with former clients, prospects and friends and to make new ones along the way. It’s a challenge at times to curb our enthusiasm when in a conversation. We could go on asking questions to learn about their brands, business and show experience. Yet, we always want to be respectful of the fact that exhibitors are there to connect with their customers and prospects, not with agency folks. So, we are quick to excuse ourselves when others approach with questions.

Marketer. As marketers, we cannot sit through a presentation without art directing slides or admiring a presentation style. We cannot walk through a trade show without noting trends in booth designs and activities. And we take lots of pictures on our smartphones for show and tell of our observations back at the office.

One of the stand-outs for me this year was what I would call the speed-detailing I experienced in the Royal Canin booth. Like most booths, there were several stations where veterinarians and technical staff were analyzing products and the science behind them. The cool thing of the experience: Speed detailing, where each of these mini presentations were no more than two minutes, if even that. They were on-point and informative, yet inviting. This is a technique I plan to share with our clients.

As for our clients and prospects, when we attend conferences and trade shows, our minds and bodies are in a constant conflict of energy and exhaustion. This year, as we experienced WVC through the multiple lenses of journalist, ethnographer, customer, prospector and marketer, we also went home with aching feet, shin splints and a need for deep slumber. However, we left the show almost too excited to rest, as we are even more excited about where the veterinary and pet industry is headed and how our team of Pathfinders can help brands Think Customer First.

Rhea + Kaiser President/CEO Diane Martin welcomes the opportunity to talk about branding, website development or breaking through the clutter at trade shows.

For more information about our approach to marketing in the pet care industry, download our R+K Pet Care Credentials or contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

R+K promotes two

R+K promotes Patty Blystone and Michelle Nickrent
R+K promotes Patty Blystone and Michelle Nickrent

R+K promotes two

Agency continues to boost professional development

Rhea + Kaiser announces the promotions of Patty Blystone to Senior Accountant and Michelle Nickrent to Account Manager, Public Relations.

Patty Blystone promoted to Senior Accountant

Patty Blystone has been contributing to the success of R+K since 2012. Her responsibilities include accounts receivable, accounts payable, and client invoicing, in addition to billing and reporting for R+K’s video production facilities. In her promotion, she will now take on the agency’s Bayer account, as well as reporting and coordinating with the agency’s Account Management + Planning department.

“Patty’s willingness to take on new tasks and master them, her dedication to accuracy, her always helpful attitude and her many professional skills make this a very merited promotion,” said Director of Finance Angel Kelpsas. 

Michelle Nickrent promoted to Account Manager, Public Relations

Michelle Nickrent recently celebrated her second year at R+K. Michelle joined R+K as a recent graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She quickly took on responsibilities within the agency’s Bayer account in their Cereals and Horticulture divisions, as well as coordinating Bayer’s Grain for Good program and running R+K’s Farm and Food Kids Camp. In addition to pitching and arranging interviews, Michelle produces content, maintains client communications and will now take the lead on internal and client-facing projects and initiatives.

“Michelle has embraced cross-department integration. She exhibits an eagerness to learn that one doesn’t often see. With her infectious laugh, positive attitude and ability to talk with anyone, she is also one of the most receptive people I have ever met,” said Associate Public Relations Director Amy McEvoy.

Congratulations to both Patty and Michelle!

R+K wins regional agrimarketing awards

Best of NAMA Regional Awards
Best of NAMA Regional Awards

R+K wins regional agrimarketing awards

Agency recognized for advertising, public relations and digital excellence

Rhea + Kaiser has earned recognition for client and agency work from the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA). The agency recently received regional Best of NAMA awards in the areas of advertising, digital and public relations.

“It is always an honor to receive awards for great work, but it is even more so when it comes from your industry peers,” noted R+K President/CEO Diane Martin. “We’re particularly proud to see recognition for our digital and social media campaigns, as that is an area of more recent growth for R+K. We’re also really happy to see acknowledgement across our clientele.”

The agency earned first place and merit awards for the following:

CATEGORY COMPANY ENTRY TITLE
Radio Ad – Series Bayer Delaro “Raise the Bar” Radio Series
Television Ad –Single or Series Bayer Delaro “Raise the Bar” TV Commercial
Direct Mail – Directed at Farmers, Growers and Ranchers – three dimensional Bayer Cotton/Soy One-to-One Direct Mail
Corporate Identity Bayer Delta First Logo
Advertising to Agribusiness NAMA NAMA Region IV Best of NAMA Awards Show Creative Campaign
Media Relations Bayer Lubbock Showcase
Events – Customer Bayer FiberMax One Ton Club/FiberMax Maximizer Club Events
Events – Customer Bayer Stoneville Legacy Club
Events – Internal Rhea + Kaiser Rhea + Kaiser Recharge
Internet Website FS FS System Website
Social Tactic Teralytic Teralytic Social Campaign

Category: Radio Ad – Series
Company: Bayer
Entry Title: Delaro “Raise the Bar” Radio Series

Category: Television Ad –Single or Series
Company: Bayer
Entry Title: Delaro “Raise the Bar” TV Commercial

Category: Direct Mail – Directed at Farmers, Growers and Ranchers – three dimensional
Company: Bayer
Entry Title: Cotton/Soy One-to-One Direct Mail

Category: Corporate Identity
Company: Bayer
Entry Title: Delta First Logo

Category: Advertising to Agribusiness
Company: NAMA
Entry Title: Region IV Best of NAMA Awards Show Creative Campaign

Category: Media Relations
Company: Bayer
Entry Title: Lubbock Showcase

Category: Events – Customer
Company: Bayer
Entry Title: FiberMax One Ton Club/FiberMax Maximizer Club Events

Category: Events – Customer
Company: Bayer
Entry Title: Stoneville Legacy Club

Category: Events – Internal
Company: Rhea + Kaiser
Entry Title: Rhea + Kaiser Recharge

Category: Internet Website
Company: FS
Entry Title: FS System Website

Category: Social Tactic
Company: Teralytic
Entry Title: Teralytic Social Campaign

The annual Best of NAMA awards honor the best in agricultural communications for the past year. Awards are presented across six regions and in 62 categories covering advertising, public relations and digital for agribusiness and non-agribusiness audiences. Regional first place and merit winners are eligible for national Best of NAMA awards. NAMA will announce the national awards during its annual Agri-Marketing Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, April 10-12, 2019.

Evolution of a rural lifestyle Persona

Evolution of a rural lifestyle Persona
Evolution of a rural lifestyle Persona

Evolution of a rural lifestyle Persona

A first-hand example of how customers may shift Personas

Customer Personas are a way for marketers to segment and prioritize an audience according to behaviors and mindsets. We use them to educate and guide communications strategies and to focus messaging and media touchpoints that will engage and support target segments, such as rural lifestylers, through their customer journeys.

As a rural lifestyler whose lifestyle recently changed address, this prompted me to ponder my own Persona.

For the past 27 years, my husband and I lived on old farmsteads in the country. Just recently, we sold our 133-year-old home on three acres in a rural community of 1,300 people. We moved seven miles west into a charming house in a rural subdivision on the far edge of a town, population 9,000.

The decision to move was easy – even as we prepared to say goodbye to a home and property that we loved and restored over the years. It was time to do something with our weekends besides maintain the lawn, gardens, fruit trees and farm buildings. It was also time to have a little more living space and walk-in closets.

The move, on the other hand, was a bit more complicated. What would we do with the tools and equipment we’d accumulated over the past 27 years? Has our identity changed? Are we still rural lifestylers or are we now townies?

Which rural lifestyle Persona will we be?

As we sorted, pitched and packed, it dawned on me that, while our address is no longer officially rural, we’re still rural lifestylers. We’re just shifting in our rural lifestyle Persona, again which began as Born in the Country nearly 27 years ago. My husband and I are both farm kids, and we’ve both worked in or with agriculture throughout our lives.

Enter the Split Personalities.

Somewhere along the line – perhaps as my career in advertising took me into new categories like turf and ornamental, pet care and healthcare – we became Split Personalities. We were (and still are) connected to the land and spent a great amount of time tending to it. But we are also comfortable with adventures in the city – whether Chicago, New York or Indianapolis.

As Split Personalities, we collected toys. A Kubota tractor and UTV, generators, Husqvarna chain saw, self-propelled mower and roto-tiller, gardening tools, guns, fishing boats and gear, power tools, free standing tool chests filled with a myriad of hand tools. But with a smaller piece of property in town, it’s likely we won’t use these too frequently, if at all.

With only a quarter of an acre to maintain, we will have more time to garden, bike, hike and fish. We can also disappear into the city for the weekend or discover new lakes for exploring, without worrying about the work ahead of us when we get home. Though we’re still primarily Split Personalities, we’re becoming Outdoor Enthusiasts, minus the everyday and dress camo.

A Persona is not forever, but the value of marketing Personas is.

As we’ve evolved throughout the rural lifestyler spectrum, it made me reconsider how we as marketers use Personas. We use them to bucket current and prospective customers by their behaviors and mindsets, and then craft personalized messages to appeal to each of those Personas who best align with our brands.

The caveat is that as humans change, so do their Personas.  And marketing has to evolve with them.

A variety of factors influence the changing personal profile. Among them are: emerging technologies that influence how we live, learn, play and alter behaviors and attitudes; environmental issues that affect our lifestyles, our awareness of products and how we use them; and the impact of the economy on our total well-being.

And coming back to the original point of this post, will a customer be the same Persona she is next year as she is now or was last year?

My personal transformation suggests not. Of course, there are hazards of relying on a focus group of one. Yet, from friends to business acquaintances, there is a community of us who have shifted in their rural lifestyle or farmer Persona. And common sense tells us that our circumstances and experiences continue to shape and define who we are.

The evolution of Personas, and potential shifting from one Persona to another, means that we as marketers need to remain vigilant in how we define our Personas. More important, we need to ensure we have a steady flow of customer data to not only inform and validate Personas, but also that the insights we use to engage customers on an individual level are up-to-date.

Personas are valuable sales and marketing tools whether we’re targeting rural lifestylers, farmers and ranchers or construction contractors. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how we build, maintain and use Personas to help our clients move their brands forward.

As President/CEO of Rhea + Kaiser, Diane Martin will always believe in the power of the Persona. And she will always be a rural lifestyler. Whether as a Born in the Country, Split Personality, Outdoor Enthusiast or some other Persona will always be prone to evolution.

To learn more about how we create and use Personas, please contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.

Check out other Personas content from R+K:
Decision maker? End user? Deal killer? Who’s who in the crowd of equipment purchasers

9 out of 10 veterinarians or 3 out of 5 stars

news pet customer reviews
news pet customer reviews

9 out of 10 veterinarians or 3 out of 5 stars

Gaining consumer confidence through peer evaluation

Online reviews and recommendations on social media can have an important and growing influence on buying decisions. And though this makes for an excellent marketing opportunity, it challenges the value of opinions based on expertise.

Pet medical supplies companies, for example, focus their marketing on veterinary recommendations and expert testimonials. If we explore their online reviews from pet parents and third-party vendors, who are their most frequent customers, we then consider the following questions:

  • How much do consumers care about the voice of an authority?
  • How important are consumer reviews?
  • How can businesses attract and leverage positive reviews?

How much do consumers care about the voice of an authority?

Expert opinion is and will always be an important influence for a consumer. However, both research and common sense tells us that the recommendations of fellow consumers are becoming more important than ever. The 2017-18 APPA National Pet Owners Survey (Figure 1) found that the internet was the most common information source for fish, bird and reptile owners and was a close second to veterinarians for dog, cat and horse owners. For all six groups, the internet’s importance as a source of information has been growing rapidly in the previous decade, particularly for finding available pets, learning about pet products and product reviews.

news pet customer reviews APPA chart
news pet customer reviews APPA chart

Figure 1

How important are consumer reviews?

Consumer reviews matter, whether they are from pet parents seeking a medical product for their dog or a vendor looking to connect with a company. The APPA survey notes that product company websites and social media are the most popular online channels for consumers to review and recommend pet products, with product review sites used by over 40 percent of all current pet owners. This means that as online shopping continues to expand, consumers are looking at and using online reviews and social media, whether it’s to get the opinion of an authority or to connect with others who have used a particular product.

How can business attract and leverage positive reviews?

Many pet care companies have a solid a history of expert recommendations, but how do they translate that to positive consumer reviews?

The goal is to generate responses, but the execution of that is so much more complex. According to a study from BrightLocal (Figure 2), asking consumers to leave reviews is one of the most difficult parts of review management. Writing a review is time-consuming, and the bulk of online reviews tend to come from the extreme ends of satisfaction. By simply encouraging more consumers to give feedback, the average rating can level out and be more representative of the product’s quality.

news pet customer reviews - managing reputation

Figure 2

We also recommend that businesses treat product and service reviews as a consumer conversation. A study by Uberall (Figure 3) found that 65 percent of consumers thought that retailers should respond to every online review, while only 10 percent thought that they should never respond.

news pet customer reviews - do users believe reviews

Figure 3

Responding to online reviews offers two clear benefits. First, by addressing a consumer’s concern, there is a real opportunity to change a negative review into a positive experience. The second benefit is that by becoming part of the conversation, the business can shape how customers discuss the product or service online. In our example, our pet medical supply company should respond to all inquiries, complaints and customer service issues, as well as ensure that medical questions are filtered to and answered by our veterinarians. This primes our products and services for more positive reviews by industry and consumer reviewers.

Inspiring engagement through constructive conversation is a great opportunity to build consumer confidence. This takes initiative and investment to encourage feedback through all channels and to respond to it when it’s given.  

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For more information about our approach to marketing in the pet care industry, download our R+K Pet Care Credentials or contact Gino Tomaro, Business Development Director.